A Facebook picture of a South African Jewish high school student wearing a traditional Palestinian scarf has triggered outrage and a petition calling for his removal from an honorary position, as well as a dueling petition in his defense.
Joshua Broomberg, deputy head boy of the King David Victory Park High School, a Jewish day school, and the captain of the South African national debate team, was tagged in a Facebook photograph wearing a traditional Palestinian scarf and a badge of the Palestinian flag, according to the Independent Online, a South African news website.
The caption of the photo stated: “Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and Keffiyehs to show our opposition to the human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine.” Broomberg and the debate team were in Thailand competing in the World Schools Debating Championship.
In response to the posting, a petition was posted online at change.org calling for Broomberg’s removal as deputy head boy, an honorary student post. The petition quickly garnered 2,000 online signatures. In response, an opposing petition was also posted at change.org, opposing Broomberg’s removal. That petition has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.
Rabbi Craig Kacev, general director of the South African Board of Jewish Education, which oversees King David Victory Park, said that Broomberg would not be suspended and defended the student’s right to free speech, telling South Africa’s Eyewitness News, “We encourage critical thinking, we encourage our learners to debate and there’s no censorship in our school.”
In a post on Facebook, Broomberg apologized for creating an “uproar,” which he said he did not intend, but defended himself as a proud Jew and as a Zionist, and stated, “While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue.”